As society “progresses” towards more efficiency and technological advances, it also moves away from human connections and relationships. God created us as social beings in His “image and likeness.” It is through connections that we grow both physically and spiritually. Historically, families, towns, regions, and civilizations survived by their social connections. Yet, as we are well into the 21st century, it appears that humans have drifted farther from personalized relationships and rely more upon individualism and social media. Such changes have created a disconnect, a distinct upheaval, from the tradition of family and the importance of growing within a stable environment.
The Catholic Church was very wise interconnecting the cyclical calendar to the liturgical year by distinguishing the celebration of feasts and the observance of fasts. For centuries, individuals were joined together through these days of feasting by celebrating together across large tables and enjoying food which was the product of their harvest. My great-grandmother grew up in the Azores (islands off of the coast of Portugal) and even though her family was extremely poor, they were always brought together by food. Many cultures are known for cooking large quantities of food and to this day still have this custom. We can see it in the Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian cultures. Good food and celebrating with family and friends were their way of connecting, even when the times were hard.
Now, we have moved to an era that experiences opulence, prosperity, and loneliness. Rather than committing to liturgical feasts and fasting days, many of these days are no longer observed unless secular society has adopted them. With the loss of liturgical traditions, we have also experienced a destabilization in the family unit. Evening dinner, which was once common practice, is no longer prevalent in today’s society. Little attention is placed upon family meals, as more families move towards individual activities and eating in the car. This separation of the family unit has caused instability not only as a whole, but also has left the individuals with a void. What is this void? It is the loss of the familial connection – a relationship that cannot be fostered anywhere else but within the confines of a stable family. The relationships between the husband and wife, in union with their children, is truly a gift from God and to ignore the importance of these connections is blatantly giving rise to loneliness and a society focused on individualism, rather than on the Truth.
Even with the slow progression away from the family and the lack of a desire for fostering personal relationships, there is no need to find defeat in our current society. Yes, it will take work to build what we have lost through “efficiency,” in the name of technological advances, but it is not impossible. Where are we to begin this monumental task? Great goodness comes from great simplicity and there’s no better place to begin societal reform, based upon virtues, than in the home. It is at our own dining room tables that we can bring back what has disappeared. A table has great importance – as Christ gathered his Apostles at such an intimate place during the Last Supper. God calls us to His heart and to share this love with others. Let’s embrace the feasts and fast Days of the Church and no better to begin than around the table with family and friends. It is on the feast days that we can enjoy all of God’s delicious treats and it is on the fast & abstinence Days that we can prudently watch our intake yet enjoy each other’s company.
To bring the world back to Christ, we must first desire His presence in our own lives. As Catholics, it is through our love for God that we desire to share it with others – those close to us and those who are strangers. It is through this that Christ’s love can be shared with the world. So, no matter the season of life, it is through relationships that we grow personally and spiritually. Let’s find the dinner table as the place for unification – a place of peace, joy, and a way to separate ourselves from the trials of the world, even if only for a small moment. These are the memories we will cleave to in the future and the moments that our children will desire to pass down to future generations. It is God’s desire that we foster connections with each other, to ultimately, foster our connection with Him.
Danielle Heckenkamp is a wife and mother of six children. In her spare time, Danielle works as a freelance writer for a variety of Catholic publications.